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5 Tips for Preparing for Start-of-Year Financial Issues

December 4, 2017

As the end of 2017 draws closer, it’s time for medical practitioners to start looking ahead to 2018. It can be hard for practices to maintain their cash flow during the early parts of the year. Patients’ insurance deductibles will reset, meaning that visits will have to be billed directly to them instead of the insurance company. This wouldn’t be a problem, however, there’s a trend of patients not paying their bills on time or in full. In fact, a 2016 TransUnion study found that 68 percent of patients who had an outstanding balance of less than $500 did not pay it in full. In 2015, the number was 53 percent, and in 2014, only 49 percent. 

This trend might be because patients are having to pay more overall for their healthcare. Back in 2008, the standard person only had to fork over about 10 percent for their bill. Today, that number has soared to 30 percent. 

To prepare for these consequences, there are certain steps practices can take to control their financial losses and get more money from patients.

Study the Practice’s Financial Health

Without taking stock of their revenue cycle on a regular basis, a practice will never really know if they’re in the positive or the negative. When January 1st rolls around, practices should gather all of the important data from the previous year, including cash inflow, the number of monthly visits, the amount charged to patients, any adjustments, and how long it took between the visit to full payment. Armed with this information, practices can alter their spending habits as necessary.

Control Spending at the Beginning of the Year

Regardless of the practice’s financial health, it’s always a good idea to control spending at the beginning of the year. For example, doctors in the practice might choose to keep their salaries low during the first couple months of the year to ensure the practice has money to pay bills. Practices might also want to hold off on buying supplies or hiring new workers until things are more stable.

Celebrate Staff Achievements

It’s important for doctors and other leaders of the practice to educate staff on the financial issues lurking at the start of the year. This will motivate them to try even harder to collect payment from the patient at the time of visit. However, for extra incentive, practice leaders can offer achievement awards or bonuses for staff members who satisfy patients while collecting bill payments. 

While any bonuses might need to be paid later in the year, the idea of being able to earn more for working harder should appeal to the entire staff.

Offer Various Payment Options

To increase the chances of a patient being able to pay, practices should offer a wide variety of payment options, including credit cards, checks, cash, and online portals. It’s also a good idea to allow payment plans, as getting some money over time is better than never getting any money. Practices should send reminder invoices to patients that do not pay. 

Educate Staff on Insurance

Staff members at the practice should actively work to understand insurance so that they can educate patients on how their plan works. Practice leaders should adapt a policy where a member of the staff investigates each patient’s coverage and determines their deductible and co-pay before the visit occurs. This will give them time to seek out public or internal financial assistance if necessary.

By following these steps, practices should be able to successfully navigate the turbulent turn of year ahead. For more help with billing issues, feel free to contact M-Scribe Technologies, LLC. Just call us at 888-727-4234 or email for a free analysis of your practice’s needs. 


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